Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Edwin Booth and Lincoln : with an unpublished letter by Edwin Booth"

See other formats



T'iie Centuory Magazine, April, 1809 

AT the time of the assassination of Lin- 
jlY coin, Edwin Booth was in Boston. 
The writer had it from Joseph Jefferson 
that Edwin Booth told him that when his 
servant came into his room in the morn- 
ing, before he was up, and told him his 
brother had shot the President, his mind 
accepted the fact at once; for he thought 
to himself that his brother was capable of 
just such a wild and foolish action. Booth 
added: “It was just as if I was struck on 
the forehead by a hammer.” 

As is well known, the great actor was 
nearly crushed by this experience; but 
the affection of his friends sustained him, 
and after nearly a year he was com- 
pelled by public appeal to return to the 

We are permitted to print below, with 
slight omissions, a letter of Edwin Booth’s, 
written immediately upon the death of 
Lincoln, to General Adam Badeau, his 
close friend, who was one of the witnesses 
at Edwin’s first marriage. Badeau was 
wounded in May, 1863, and in July, just 
before the riot, was taken to New York 
and carried to Booth’s house, being borne 
to his bed by the brothers, Edwin and 
John Wilkes. Early in 1865, Badeau 
was taken to New York after an attack 
of camp fever, and John Wilkes was 
again at his brother’s house. But, as a 
matter of fact, John Wilkes and Edwin 
were not very intimate, and did not see 
a great deal of each other. It was well 
understood between them, and in the fam- 
ily, that they held widely different views 
concerning the war. (See “Edwin 
Booth,” page 227, edited by Edwina 
Booth Grossman.) 

Edwin Booth’s regard for the Southern 
people was most sincere, but he was a 

strong Unionist and was a great admirer 
of Lincoln. No one can read this letter 
without the deepest sympathy with, and re- 
newed admiration for, the great actor and 
large-hearted man, who rose up after a 
staggering blow to continue bravely his 
career as the leading tragedian of his time. 
This tragic letter seems to us one of the 
most important personal documents in our 
history : 

Letter of Edwin Booth to Col. Adam Badeau. 
Written in Boston, Sunday, April 16 (1865), mailed in 
New York, April 17 (1865). 

Envelop addressed : “ Col. A Badeau Lieut Genl 

Grants Hdqrs Washington DC” 

Lead pencil indorsement, not in Booth’s writing, 
“ Care Gen Ord Richmond Va ” 

The original letter is now owned by William H. Lam- 
bert, Philadelphia. 

Sunday April 16th 

My dear Ad 

For the first time since the damnable 
intelligence stunned me ********* 
am I able to write and hasten to acquaint 
you of my existence as it has been so long 
a time since I last wrote you, making me 
afraid [nc] my silence. You know Ad, 
how I have labored since dear Mary was 
called from me to establish a name that 
my child and all my friends wd be proud 
of ; you know how I have always toiled 
for the comfort & welfare of my family — 
though in vain, as well you know how 
loyal I have been from the first moment 
of this damned rebellion, and you must 
feel deeplv the agony I bear in being thus 
blasted in' all my hopes ******** 
Alas ! how frightful is the spectacle, 
what shall become 0 f me ******* 
******* Poor Mother! I go to 
New York to day — expecting to find her 
either dead or dying. I ’ve remained here 



thus long at the advice of friends who 
thought it necessary that I slid be set right 
before the public of Boston to whom I 
owe so much of all that is dear to me— 
You know our friends who loved & ap- 
preciated my Mary so well and as many who 
have ever been — even in this most awful 
hour my firm and staunch friends. Abra- 
ham Lincoln was my President for in 
pure admiration of his noble career & 
Christian principles I did what I never 
did before — I voted & for him! I was 
two days ago one of the happiest men 
alive — Grant’s magnificent work accom- 
plished, * * * & sweet Peace turning her 
radiant face again upon our country — 
Now what am I? Oh! how little did I 
dream my boy, when on Friday night I 
was as Sir Edward Mortimer exclaiming 
“Where is my honor now?” “Moun- 
tains of shame are piled upon me!” that I 
was not acting but uttering the fearful 
truth. I have a great deal to tell you of 
myself & the beautiful plans I had for the 
future — all blasted now, but must wait 
until my mind is more settled. I am half 
crazy now — You will be pleased to 
know that the deepest sympathy is ex- 
pressed for me here — and by none more 
sincerely than dear old Gov. Andrew. 

God bless you, 

Ned — 

In the charming volume of recollec- 
tions and letters of her father, published 
by Edwina Booth Grossman, there is a 
letter of Edwin’s of November n, i860, 
in which he cheerfully remarks: “I voted 
(for Lincoln) t’ other day — the first vote 
I ever cast; and I suppose I am now an 
American citizen all over, as I have ever 
been in heart.” And, writing in 1881, 
he refers to having also “voted for Lin- 
coln’s reelection.” 

Mr. William Bispham, writing in The 
Century for November, 1893, tells the 
story, which Edwin Booth himself told 
him, of his saving the life of President 
Lincoln’s eldest son early in the war: “He 
had started for Philadelphia from New 
York, and while he was standing on the 
platform of a car, still in the Pennsylvania 
railroad station at Jersey City, and just as 
the train w^as about to move, a young lad, 
going from one car to another, stumbled, 

and would have fallen between them, had 
not Edwin caught him by the collar of the 
coat and landed him in safety by his side. 
The boy, whom Edwin had never seen be- 
fore, evidently recognized him, and holding 
out his hand said to him, ‘That was a nar- 
row escape, Mr. Booth,’ and thanked him 
warmly. Two weeks later Edwin re- 
ceived a letter from General Adam Ba- 
deau in which the latter mentioned that 
Robert Lincoln had told him that it was 
his life that had thus been saved.” 

Asked recently if he recollected the in- 
cident, Mr. Robert T. Lincoln replied : 
“The account is essentially correct, but 
it is not accurate in its details. . . . The 
incident occurred while a group of passen- 
gers were late at night purchasing their 
sleeping-car places from the conductor, 
who stood on the station platform at the 
entrance of the car. The platform was 
about the height of the car floor, and there 
was of course a narrow space between the 
platform and the car body. There was 
some crowding, and I happened to be 
pressed by it against the car body while 
waiting my turn. In this situation the 
train began to move, and by the motion I 
was twisted off my feet, and had dropped 
somewhat, with feet downward, into the 
open space, and was personally helpless, 
when my coat collar was vigorously seized, 
and I was quickly pulled up and out to 
a secure footing on the platform. Upon 
turning to thank my rescuer, I saw it 
was Edwin Booth, whose face was of 
course well known to me, and I expressed 
my gratitude to him, and, in doing so, 
called him by name.” 

We are authorized to correct the state- 
ment, recently made in print, that Edwin 
Booth went to Washington to identify the 
body of his brother John Wilkes when it 
was delivered to the family. For the sake 
of privacy, his own face bejng so familiar 
to the public, Edwin sent his brother Jo- 
seph, a physician, on that sad errand. 
After the tragedy, Edwin Booth never set 
foot in Washington except on the one oc- 
casion when he was summoned, and testi- 
fied as to his absolute lack of knowledge 
of the crime. He was treated with great 
courtesy and detained only a short time. — 
The Editor.